“The American public is suffering from an education deficit. By this I mean it exhibits a growing inability to think critically, question authority, be reflective, weigh evidence, discriminate between reasoned arguments and opinions, listen across differences and engage the mutually informing relationship between private problems and broader public issues. This growing political and cultural illiteracy is not merely a problem of the individual, one that points to simple ignorance. It is a collective and social problem that goes to the heart of the increasing attack on democratic public spheres and supportive public institutions that promote analytical capacities, thoughtful exchange and a willingness to view knowledge as a resource for informed modes of individual and social agency. One of the major consequences of the current education deficit and the pervasive culture of illiteracy that sustains it is what I call the ideology of the big lie - which propagates the myth that the free-market system is the only mechanism to ensure human freedom and safeguard democracy.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker doesn’t like unions, and unions don’t like him. But the most remarkable thing about Walker’s relationship to labor isn’t that he thinks unions are worthless — most Republicans agree — but that he thinks about them, at all.
Today, unions have been swept into dusty corners of the U.S. workforce, such as Las Vegas casino cleaners and New York City hotel staff. For much of the 20th century, things were different. Almost every person living in the Northeast, Midwest and California “was in a union himself/herself, had a family member in a union, or, at least, had a friend or neighbor in a union,” Rich Yeleson, veteran in the labor movement, writes in The New Republic. The apogee of the unions was also the apogee of the middle class, when it commanded more than half of total income. As the union membership rate dropped, middle class share of income fell, too.
Union membership now bobs around 12 percent of the workforce. It has been this low before — 80 years ago. In 1900, just 7 percent of Americans were union members. So an elegant economic explanation of the fall of unions (not to diminish the good political explanations, but we’re an economic section) should also explain the rise of unions.
I found a good one in “The Rise and Fall of U.S. Unions,” by Emin M. Dinlersoz and Jeremy Greenwood. Boiled down to a sentence: Technological innovation gave life to the American union. Then technological innovation killed the American union.
This cursed business, accursed of God and man, what is it? Strip it of all its ornament, run it down to the root and nucleus of the whole, and what is it? Why, because my brother Quashy is ignorant and weak, and I am intelligent and strong,—because I know how, and can do it,—therefore, I may steal all he has, keep it, and give him only such and so much as suits my fancy. Whatever is too hard, too dirty, too disagreeable, for me, I may set Quashy to doing. Because I don’t like work, Quashy shall work. Because the sun burns me, Quashy shall stay in the sun. Quashy shall earn the money, and I will spend it. Quashy shall lie down in every puddle, that I may walk over dry-shod. Quashy shall do my will, and not his, all the days of his mortal life, and have such chance of getting to heaven, at last, as I find convenient. This I take to be about what slavery is.
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin
From “America Needs its own “Spring’”, by David Talbot
I founded Salon 16 years ago because I thought the country needed a strong, independent news operation. The Web gave my collaborators and me a platform for free and spirited journalism, and we took full advantage of it. For the first time in my life as a journalist, we — editors, reporters, critics and designers — were in sole control of our work, not managers and corporate sponsors…
Americans are deeply worried and dispirited. Three years ago, as the country slid into a bottomless recession, we rallied around a presidential candidate who promised real change, only to see him fall captive to the same forces of greed and endless war that have brought us to ruin. The alternatives presented by the Republican Party would only accelerate this national decline. We’re faced on the one side by a well-meaning but ineffectual leader who has waited far too late in his presidency to rally the people around the powerful themes of jobs and economic justice — and on the other side by GOP leaders who are competing to see how quickly they can dismantle the last decent vestiges of public life in America.
We can no longer wait for the country’s corporate-dominated political system to solve our problems. All of us know friends and family members who are in dire straits; many of us are barely clinging on, struggling to pay the bills and raise our children, while trying to give them a sense of hope for the future. The richest get even richer, the rest of us get poorer. The gap between the powerful and the powerless in America grows wider than ever…
Last week I visited the young people who were camped out near the New York Stock Exchange, in protest against Wall Street’s reign of greed. They told me they had little to look forward to in today’s America. No jobs, a crushing load of student debt, and a political system that seems completely rigged against people like themselves. But they had not given up hope. Inspired by the social upheavals in the Arab world and the protests in Europe against rapacious financial elites, these young Americans are calling for their own “American Spring.”
Salon wholeheartedly embraces this process of national renewal…
As Van Every puts it:
“The foundation principle of Indian government had always been the rejection of government. The freedom of the individual was regarded by practically all Indians north of Mexico as a canon infinitely more precious than the individual’s duty to his community or nation. This anarchistic attitude ruled all behaviour, beginning with the smallest social unit, the family. The Indian parent was constitutionally reluctant to discipline his children. Their every exhibition of self-will was accepted as a favourable indication of the development of maturing character…”
Howard Zinn, “A People’s History of the United States”
— Michael Pollan
— “An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution”, Charles Beard